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This Weekend in Media Irritants

Conan, Peyser, Israelis, and punk

Jesse Oxfeld
June 15, 2009
O'Brien at a press event in January.(Getty Images)
O'Brien at a press event in January.(Getty Images)

Profoundly disturbing moment of the morning: leafing through The New York Post on the train to work this morning, we found ourselves, remarkably, in agreement with Andrea Peyser. Peyser, who is employed by the Post to be indignant, is today indignant with Conan O’Brien, who on Thursday night’s Tonight Show made this joke: “Political experts say that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to endorse a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side but have no contact. Netanyahu said it will be exactly like being married to a Jewish woman.” Peyser used the occasion to rant against comedians for their insensitivity (we thought that’s sort of the point of comedy, but whatever); we were initially more frustrated because it’s an old, lazy joke. But then we thought about it and realized our problem is deeper: it’s an old, lazy joke about suburban American Jewish women. It’s not at all a joke about Israeli women. And, ultimately, that’s our big objection: “Jewish” is not the same as “Israeli,” Conan (and everyone else). But, then, they probably don’t teach that in County Cork.

Also in our newsreading and old, lazy jokes: hey, Ralph Blumenthal of the New York Times, it’s just hilarious to open your report about a panel at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research on the Jewish roots of punk rock with the two-word paragraph “Who knew?” Oh, and also? Everyone who reads the Times knows.

Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.